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On Walking and Talking on the Phone

Since the advent of cell phones, people have started using their walking time as an opportunity to chat on the phone. This phenomenon has become an epidemic. Now, at any given moment outside my law office in downtown San Francisco, I see more pedestrians interacting with their phones than with other people. Some are talking. More are texting or e mailing or instagraming.

Sure, from a time-management perspective, walking and talking can be an effective way to accomplish several things at once. But from a safety standpoint, it's a really bad idea.

This has been proven time and again. The most recent cell phone-related accident occurred just Monday, when 18-year-old Brittney Silva was tragically struck and killed by an Amtrak train in San Leandro, which she didn't notice because she was wearing ear buds and talking on the phone. Apparently, witnesses tried to shout to Silva to warn her of the oncoming train, but she didn't respond, likely because her ear buds prevented her from hearing them.

I've already expressed my disagreement with the predominating opinion that it is the pedestrian's sole responsibility to avoid being hit by a train. Not everyone walks onto train tracks with the intent to commit suicide either, another popular yet false assumption, and Silva is an apt example of that. I firmly believe that the Bay Area's train systems need to improve their safety mechanisms, making it easier to detect pedestrians on the tracks and stop with enough time to avoid hitting them. In Silva's case, the Amtrak train didn't stop until a few hundred yards after it ran her over. This only proves the need for these kinds of safety improvements.

As a pedestrian accident attorney, I am an ardent advocate of pedestrian safety. Silva's horrible death is a cautionary tale for those thousands of people I see talking, texting or e mailing on their phones while walking the streets. Just as talking on the phone while driving is a distraction, so too is using your cell phone while walking. This is especially true if you wear ear buds or other headphones that cancel outside noise. Wearing headphones can make you totally unaware of whatever may be happening just outside your field of vision, be it a traffic jam, a speeding car, or a train headed your way.

Silva was only 18-years-old. She belonged to a generation that has grown up with cell phones and ear buds or headphones. Many children in the Bay Area have cell phones from an early age, and it's important that they know how to use them safely, without putting their lives at risk.

Of course, there are also scores of adults out there whose cell phone usage is unsafe as well. Make sure that an ear is always free to hear what's going on around you. It's tough enough to get by when all of our senses are intact and attuned to the environment. Maybe sacrificing a few minutes of entertainment, phone discussion or headphone wearing to potentially save your own life is something to think about.

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